Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Maybe We've Been Pointing At The Wrong Guy
"Meanwhile, they get to live in the master’s house, while their brothers and sisters are victims of the 13th Amendment and sleeping on cots in the Big House." - Damon Davis
If you're black, African American, of African descent, Wakandian, or any trendy description you prefer to use to classify yourself as a descendant of African slaves, then you probably know about Uncle Tom. Not just know who Uncle Tom is because everyone knows that, but what. You likely have a thorough understanding of how being called an Uncle Tom to your face at the Johnson family barbecue is among the short list of straight for the jugular insults you can be labeled as a black person in America. Uncle Tom and House N**ga are the crème de la crème of spiteful insults.
Although, it is often an abused and misused comparison. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted by Malcolm X with the label. While Malcolm is an all-time great African American leader, his legacy and impact are not as far-reaching as that of Dr. Martin Luther King's. He is largely recognized as being the foremost leader in America's transformative civil rights movement of the 60’s. It forced the U.S. and the world to reckon with the unjust, unequal and biased treatment of blacks that had become a societal norm. Although we still have more work to do, there is no doubt that history takes the stand as the most reliable witness testifying Malcolm's indictment against Martin was inaccurate by far.
As it was then, being called an Uncle Tom or A House N**ga among black people is pretty much one in the same. Anytime that accusation is hurled, no one's goal is necessarily to try to make an accurate historical reference. If you think that, then you have missed the point. The goal is to let the accused know that he is out of bounds and essentially an embarrassment to his race. In fact, the accompanying undertone usually echoes, "Now GO HOME because you have been EXILED!" Usually, by the time it has gotten this far, it is because someone has viewed an individual as a person willing to pander to another race at the expense of his own. Typically, the race is whites, which often includes any system perceived to be an extension of white people, like the police.
The irony of the terms Uncle Tom and a House N**ga being viewed as one in the same is historically they were supposed to be something vastly different. Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852 as an anti-slavery novel. The character of Uncle Tom was created to be viewed as a peaceful man to alter the stigma of the violent, angry, and dangerous slave. It was a successful attempt to change the view of blacks before eventually broadening the conversation on the abolishment of slavery. Many are unaware that that Uncle Tom's Cabin is credited for shifting the social climate on the topic of slavery and setting the stage for the North to reach a consensus about their stance.
The origins of the term "House N**ga" is a little different. This label was originally given to a trustworthy slave privileged enough to live in the house. And usually, the perks came with certain expectations such as, "Gotta help Massa keep an eye on the field n**gers." So, he or she was expected to reap benefits in exchange for remaining trustworthy by helping to keep his race enslaved and working the system as planned. In short, they often benefited from keeping their brothers and sisters oppressed.
With this definition in mind, I am forced to take an honest look at society today. We must unbiasedly consider the oppressions many blacks are victims of today and who seems to help perpetuate our struggles.
Presently in America, we have no picture of slavery more vivid than the incarceration rate of blacks in America. Though blacks are often unfairly sentenced, I know from personal experience we are not as often utterly free of any wrongdoing.
During a time in which blacks represent just over 12% of the U.S. population; somehow, we are disproportionately 33% of the prison population. It is unsettling to witness many of the most influential voices in our culture today get rich from promoting lifestyles that are often leading the masses to this modern-day slavery. Keeping it 100. I ran the streets of Detroit for many years growing up and many of the people, if not all, the black men I knew getting arrested were actually committing crimes. In fact, usually, they had committed far more crimes than they were getting arrested for. With that said, I can’t fail to note that black and brown men were often unjustly given longer sentences. Nevertheless, a crime had been committed and more than we’d like to admit, we found inspiration not only in our lack of resources, but also in movies, music, and culture.
It gets deeper. Consider fatherlessness, which has had a devastating impact on our communities. About 6 out of every 10 black children are growing up without a father in the home. This is an issue at the roots of innumerable challenges young black men are facing today. The fathers, mentors, and positive role models are missing. Recently, I was with my all black male mentor group. Out of the thirteen young black men, only one has an active father in his life. With that reality weighing on our progress, it is hard to admit that many of our most celebrated black voices advocate the disrespect of black women which is often transferred to the child she bears.
These careless endorsements are a disservice to our efforts to advance by reinforcing unfavorable stat after stat. Not much is more oppressive than spreading toxic ideas.
A murder rate that is 10-12 times higher than that of white Americans oppresses us.